INT: Shaw/Byrd

Vinessa Shaw and Dan Byrd play a brother and sister on screen in the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, by HIGH TENSION director Alexandre Aja, based on Wes Craven’s original 1977 classic. Byrd is still a young twenty years old, but has already done a lot in the horror genre, working with masters like Tobe Hooper and in the TV version of SALEM'S LOT, while Shaw drew acclaim as the sexy Domino in Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT. Sitting down with them to talk about their new film together, there was a definite sense of brother/sister chemistry between them as they discussed horror films, their thoughts on director Aja and working alongside the mutant family.

Vinessa Shaw Dan Byrd

Is this the type of film you would go see?

Shaw: I would never see this movie because I’m frightened of horror movies. Ever since I was a kid my friends who always wanted to see them would mortify me by showing me clips from a movie, I would have to run in the other room, call my parents and go home, that kind of thing. Especially you know, Nightmare on Elm Street movies which, sorry Wes (laughs), I just…the idea of anything that was not related to reality would scare me more. Movies like The Shining I would be able to see more easily, I don’t know I’m odd that way, but things that could just possibly come out of nowhere, some crazy fabricated monster, no way.

So what makes you want to do a horror film then?

Shaw: (laughs) Well, I guess I can be good in it since I’m so frightened of those kind of concepts. But this one in particular really attracted me because of the filmmakers. I really though that they had a great stance on it, it’s very different, very heart felt, heartbreaking story because of the characters involved. That’s what made the difference. It was more of an actor’s piece, if you can believe that, in a horror movie.

Byrd: I’m typically not the biggest horror movie fan. Actually I keep trying to take myself outside of the situation and look at it objectively and think if I wasn’t involved in this would this be something that I may be interested in. I think there’s a lot of really shitty horror movies out there, but this is not one of those. I think it looks scary and fun and I’ve seen it and I know it’s very scary. It’s just very gritty and real and they really give you time to really care about these characters, which I think is a major flaw in most horror movies. This is one I would be interested in seeing.

Have either of you seen the original The Hills Have Eyes or Alexandre’s first film High Tension and what was it like working with him?

Shaw: Um, uh…

Byrd: (cutting her off jokingly) Well, um…

Shaw: (sarcastically) Yeah brother. The original I have seen. And I was actually doing my homework, seeing Alex and Greg’s (co-writer/ producer Gregory Levasseur) first movie trying to determine how they would do it differently. The first movie is a cult classic, so it’s kind of hard to go okay how different can they make it, what would they do to modernize it and all these things. It was interesting to see the two together, High Tension, I saw it one after the other and seeing how this could meld into a very frightening move because of the grittiness of Alex and Greg and how they direct their movies. And it’s beautiful at the same time; it has a beauty to it. They have an amazing knack of making horror and beauty come together in a magical way.

Byrd: I think that was the one thing I realized or I notice more then anything watching High Tension was it looks like an art film, aside from all the terribly gruesome stuff that’s going on. I thought that was really intriguing.

What was your reaction to the mutant characters?

Byrd: (jokingly) Oh, we stayed away from them. I think it was not on purpose that it did end up being sort of like the family hanging out and the mutant people hanging out.

Shaw: Because they came later, we already bonded.

Byrd: (jokingly) They would try to penetrate our group…

Shaw: No they didn’t! We did try to penetrate theirs.

Were the mutant men gentle with you?

Shaw: (laughing) Yes they’re very kind. They’re very good actors. We had to work with them, I mean Aaron (Stanford) had to work with Michael Bailey (Smith) for weeks and weeks, I mean we all have like our mutant that we had to battle. You have to bond with them too as well and it was harder because they were already in make-up and the make-up would be kind of falling off and having to have water all the time. They needed a break, cause we were in Morocco with the heat, so they had to go into this special tent, so that kind of divided us as well.

Vinessa you probably had the most disturbing scene in the movie with the baby and Robert’s character kind of… taking the place of your baby…

Shaw: (laughs uncontrollably) Oh, my.

How twisted was the scene to you when you read it on paper and then having to do it?

Shaw: Yes it was very twisted, definitely. That was kind of a point of contention, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do the movie if that were going to be the showcased part of myself, you know? So I was like how are we going to shoot this? I had three or four meetings with Alex and Greg before I really decided to do the movie. I mean I thought they’re not gonna wanna deal with me, I’m too high maintenance, but it ended up just being I was just very specific about is this gonna turn into something else, like pornographic?

But we had many, many meetings regarding the nature of that and how it be shown and I made sure it was shown in a certain way and so did he. By the end, Alex was like - and there it is, there’s the scene we had ten million meetings about – so we were all glad when it was done. But it was hard, it was hard to negotiate with Robert (Joy) cause he has this cleft palate, I mean it was more then just me just getting attacked at that moment, it was a lot of negotiation, it was a long, long scene and lot of screaming, a lot of crying over and over again. So it was pretty horrifying. It’s a huge, huge moment - I think it’s like the turning point in the movie really.

What are you doing next?

Byrd: (in a throwaway tone) The next movie that comes out for me is Lonely Hearts, which is a John Travolta/Salma Hayek thing.

Shaw: (ribbing him) He really knows how to publicize, huh?

Byrd: (laughing) I don’t know when it’s coming out.

Shaw: I have two movies, one that’s called Badland. And now I’m doing this movie called Garden Party.

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